Although docuseries seem to be the new push in the way true stories are told, it’s hard to beat a great documentary. The best documentaries make you wish they were series, but that is part of their magic. They know when to get out so as not to bore you with all their information, a curse that some docuseries have fallen into; not every true story needs eight hours to be told. Documentaries have been no exception to the fantastic content coming out this year, with Netflix in particular leading the pack as one of the best streaming services for documentary content. These are the top documentaries of 2022, so far.
11 Elizabeth: A Portrait in Parts
Elizabeth: A Portrait in Parts documents the longest-reigning British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II who has been on the throne for 70 years. Director Roger Michell puts together a beautiful display of the Queen’s historical achievements while also giving a rare look into her personal life. The documentary is pieced together with archival footage and scenes from great scripted content like The Crown and Elizabeth. Elizabeth: A Portrait in Parts is now available on Showtime.
10 Return to Space
The Netflix documentary Return to Space brings us inside Elon Musk’s revolutionary SpaceX mission as they send NASA astronauts back to the International Space Station. The documentary follows SpaceX from one of its first vehicles, the Falcon 1, to the 2020 launch of astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken on the Crew Dragon Demo-2. The film, directed by Oscar winners Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhely of Free Solo and The Rescuei, is an interesting look inside Musk’s process of building a re-usable spacecraft.
9 The Tinder Swindler
The Tinder Swindler follows the story of the Israeli conman Simon Leviev and how he used the dating app Tinder to swindle women out of thousands of dollars. Director Felicity Morris interviews the women who Leviev emotionally manipulated to support his lavish lifestyle as they describe his wild tactics and how they got their revenge. The Tinder Swindler is streaming on Netflix.
8 Our Father
Our Father tells the haunting story of Donald Cline, a former Indianapolis-based fertility doctor who used his own sperm to impregnate his unsuspecting patients. The documentary follows the children of Cline as they discover the truth about what happened to their mothers and unite with each other to take him down. Our Father, directed by Lucie Jourdan, is a compelling and upsetting tale that stays with you long after the film’s close. Our Father is available on Netflix.
7 Jennifer Lopez: Halftime
The Netflix documentary Jennifer Lopez: Halftime follows the career of Jennifer Lopez with a focus on the year leading up to her 2020 Super Bowl halftime show. The documentary, directed by Amanda Micheli, captures Lopez’s dedication to her craft and documents the hardships she has faced throughout her life and career. Jennifer Lopez: Halftime includes interviews with Lopez and people that know her best giving a personal look into the superstar.
6 The Mystery of Marilyn Monroe: The Unheard Tapes
The Mystery of Marilyn Monroe: The Unheard Tapes follows Anthony Summers, author of Goddess (1985), as he discusses his research on the untimely death of cultural icon Marilyn Monroe. Director Emma Cooper uses archival footage and interviews from people that knew her using the 650 tape-recorded interviews Summers gathered during his three years of research. The documentary is an interesting look into the star’s “suicide” that has been a source of conspiracy for years. The Mystery of Marilyn Monroe is available on Netflix.
5 Downfall: The Case Against Boeing
Downfall: The Case Against Boeing is a scathing view of Boeing’s attempt to capitalize on the aircraft market and the manufacturing of their aircraft, specifically the Boeing 737 Max which was involved in the crashes of Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302. The documentary looks at the events leading up to the crashes, which killed a combined 346 people, and Boeing’s greed while disregarding safety. Director Rory Kennedy uses archival footage and interviews with former employees, victims’ families, and pilots including Captain Sully Sullenberger, creating both an emotional and informative film. Downfall: The Case Against Boeing is available on Netflix.
4 Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts
Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts beautifully reunites the cast of the Harry Potter film series, including stars Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint. The documentary marks the 20th anniversary of the release of the first film, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001). The cast is wonderful as they reminisce about the 10 years they spent filming plus the impact the franchise has had on fans. Fans of the Harry Potter franchise loved the documentary which received positive reviews. Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts is streaming on HBO Max.
3 Girl in the Picture
Girl in the Picture tells the twisted story of Suzanne Sevakis and the horrors she endured at the hands of her abductor, Franklin Delano Floyd. The documentary, directed by Skye Borgman, follows the two decades Sevakis was held captive by Floyd and her suspicious death in 1990. Girl in the Picture locks you in from the minute it starts with its sick and tragic tale. Girl in the Picture is now streaming on Netflix.
2 Spring Awakening: Those You’ve Known
Spring Awakening: Those You’ve Known is an emotional reunion of the original cast and creative team of the Tony-winning Broadway show, Spring Awakening. Director Michael John Warren filmed the original company’s 15-year 2021 reunion concert to benefit The Actor’s Fund and their rehearsals while mixing in interviews from the cast, which includes stars Jonathan Groff and Lea Michelle. The film is a wonderful look at the groundbreaking play that continues to enthrall fans to this day. Spring Awakening: Those You’ve Known is streaming on HBO Max.
1 The Janes
HBO’s The Janes tells the story of the brave women who built the clandestine network Jane, which helped women find safe and affordable abortions in Chicago through the years 1968-1973. Directors Tia Lessin and Emma Pildes interview the women and men that were involved in the network and follows it through Jane’s inception to the arrest of some of their top members. The stories are harrowing and the women who led the network are absolutely fascinating to listen to. The Janes is available on HBO Max. The true stories have been dramatized in the upcoming film Call Jane, starring Elizabeth Banks, Sigourney Weaver, Wunmi Mosaku, and Kate Mara.
With 2022 heading into its fall season, fans can expect more great documentaries to come. With films like Netflix’s The Anthrax Attacks and HBO’s Escape From Kabul streaming soon, it will be exciting to see how the new documentaries stand up against the rest of this great year.